Jack was sitting on the edge of the bed, digging into the pocket of his jeans for his lighter.
It must have fallen out when I threw them aside earlier..
“Here, use mine”, the other man said, turning it on for him until his cigarette was lit up before taking one for himself and doing the same.
He inhaled deeply, feeling the smoke burn through his lungs, then he puffed it out in a small cloud, staring at the shapes it created in the dim light of the room as it spiraled upwards.
Some of those nights, Jack thought back at when he had been younger, believing he'd never know what it felt like to be touched and looked at with desire by someone else.
He almost wanted to laugh.
It had never been easier for him to find sex, especially from men, despite the fact that he hadn't even had any surgery yet. In fact, there were some amongst them who seemed disappointed by his future plans.
“But what if you change your mind? Besides, I think you look great like this...”
That was the part he disliked about those encounters. The chance of dealing with strangers who had never met him before in their life trying to lecture him about things they knew jack shit about.
As if they truly cared about his potential regret rather than the fact that they would be less willing to fuck him. The joke was on them, though, since he was instantly far less willing to ever fuck them again when they started talking like that.
Sorry pal, your dick isn't even nearly good enough for me to put up with that bullshit.
He didn't say that to their face, of course. He just never bothered to call back again.
“You're going already?”, the man on the bed asked, turning around to look at him as he dressed up again.
Jack nodded as he rummaged through the scattered pile of clothes on the floor, looking for his binder.
“I've got work tomorrow. Can't get home too late”.
The man nodded. Jack didn't remember his name. He had told him at some point but he was terrible with remembering names, especially after the fifth drink. The guy had been chasing him since he first asked him for a smoke, dancing with him for the rest of the evening before he had suggested to leave together, after a good half an hour of snogging and dry humping.
“That's alright”, he had told him at that point, his hands shoved into his pants to grope his butt. “But there's something you need to know first...”
The reactions he got from being told he was trans to a potential lay varied, but generally fell under two categories: the “huh, never been with someone like that before, but sure” and the “who gives a fuck”. This guy fell straight into the latter.
He was sure at some point he was bound to find someone who would take it less well, just due to sheer statistical probability, but the day hadn't come yet.
Not that it meant that everything went great for him, sex-wise. For starters when it came to guys, they only ever wanted to top, with some rare exceptions. Sometimes also when it came to girls. He didn't mind terribly, being versatile and all, but sometimes he wanted to be the one doing the fucking. Was that too much to ask?
Then there were the chasers, although those were more easily avoided and mainly he came across on them on cruising apps, so he could just block them when they got insistent. Which was pretty much every damn time.
You'd think when you're the one whose fetish is in limited supply you'd learn to not push your luck right away doing something stupid.
That was probably a cynical way to view it, but he didn't care. He had no patience for pushy people. If they didn't bother backing off when he said no before it even got to the sex, how could he know they would listen in the heat of the moment? It wasn't a gamble he was willing to make, not even near the first days after the shot when his libido went through the roof.
He'd had enough of that sort of thing already, back when he was younger.
Things had been different before. He'd been in such distress that there were times when he was unable to shower for weeks from how much he could not bear to see himself naked. He could not even begin to imagine someone else finding him attractive when he was so repulsed by his own image. And even if by some sort of wild chance he would have had such luck, he couldn't imagine himself having sex with that body without wanting to tear off his own skin just by thinking about it.
It didn't help that his family seemed fully convinced that if he ever went through with transitioning no one would ever want to touch him, unless they were fringe fetishists or particularly desperate, and that he got exactly the same kind of message from society at large. It was the small things that piled up in the long term. The disparaging off-hand jokes, the comments about how “fucking a tranny” would be disgusting and how presenting like he felt he should be was “tricking people”. Most of the times they weren't even intentionally directed at him, but it didn't mean he wasn't affected by them.
His friends had supported him, but it was hard to believe them when he had spent his whole life feeling unlovable, and not even just due to his condition. He just had always been an outsider, and it had taken him forever to realize just how much his family had contributed to making him feel that way. If it hadn't been the trans thing it would have been the fact that he was bisexual, if it hadn't been that it would have been the fact that he did badly in school and was not good at understanding social cues... no matter what, there was always something that made them act like they were ashamed of him and regretted having had to care for him.
Not that any of that stopped him from finally accessing medical care and being assessed to start hormone replacement therapy. Sex wasn't what was driving him to transition, or at least not the kind that involved other people. It was more of a matter of his sexed characteristics existing altogether. Even just hearing his own voice was enough to drive him up the wall when his dysphoria was particularly intense, to the point where he avoided speaking at all if not strictly necessary.
Testosterone had changed everything, mostly for the best. Just the mental stability it gave him to have the right kind of hormones flowing through him, and finally getting rid of that nightmare that came back to haunt him every month would have made it worth it. Aside from that, it really was amazing how much a body could change just depending on hormones alone. There was really no way he could have been mistaken for a girl with his clothes on, and even without them it mainly looked as if his breasts and genitals had been photoshopped there.
That was the part that had gotten worse, in some ways. He could shower with a lot more ease, but he still avoided looking too much at his own reflection. Working out and losing weight had helped, but only to a certain extent. The fact that those flat hairy breasts looked so out of place on that otherwise male body just made their presence even more jarring, and the fact that his crotch was obviously missing something did not help either.
It still had taken him years to actually be comfortable enough to do anything beyond kissing with someone else. He mostly had his ex to thank for that, for her stubbornness and patience. She had been the first one to tell him she was attracted to him and not have it feel like a joke or something more insidious. There had been... attempts, before. Mostly out of desperation and out of the belief that he could not afford to have standards, even when those standards were as low as “not being made to do things I dislike and not being made to feel worthless for daring to protest”. They didn't last long, nor did they end well. At least, if nothing else they taught him not to put up with that sort of mind games ever again.
It had taken him almost as long to give up on her after they split up. There wasn't much one could do about incompatible life plans. One couldn't really compromise between “I want to have children” and “I never could be a parent”, or between “I want to live somewhere else” and “I could never leave my family and friends behind”. They hadn't fought about it, but it still had been difficult. She had moved on since then, he even heard she was planning to get married with her current boyfriend. He also had moved on, but he never had found someone else who understood him as much as she did. She was one of a kind.
Ironically enough, his mother was the one who was most vocally unhappy about the end of their relationship. It felt like a cruel joke, given how she had yelled at him and told him she would “pray for God to bring you back on the right path” when she first learned he also liked girls. Now however she saw the opportunity of a façade of normalcy, and she resented him for not having the decency to give her that, what with how good she had gotten at playing the part of the supportive parent. Too bad it had taken her over a decade to do that, and it didn't erase the years she had spent misgendering him and forcing him into dresses and skirts whenever he had to go anywhere with her, and that wasn't really the worst she had done. Not that it mattered, since she liked to pretend anything worse than that had simply never happened and accused him of lying if he ever brought it up.
He eventually found it was just easier to let her have her own charade in which she had always been a well-intentioned mother who did her best to put up with a difficult child and only made a passing mistake in not accepting him for who he was, but who now had put it all behind her and truly didn't hold it against him – except for all the times she rubbed it in his face and expected sympathy for the terrible trial of having had to raise a child she had intentionally given birth to and who hadn't turned out to be a perfect little bundle of joy.
At least now he didn't have to stay around her all that much. The perks of having a job and an apartment.
He could hardly believe he was a full-fledged adult. It seemed like just the other day he was still in high school, musing on whether he'd even get past his twenties, and yet it had been nearly ten years.
Some things never changed. He never really had learned to clean up after himself, so his way of taking care of his place generally involved him jumping up one day and realizing he could no longer keep on eating straight out of the pans to avoid washing the dishes and treading through the room as if it were a minefield to avoid stepping on his clothes and all the other assorted possessions scattered all around the room.
That was when he rolled up his sleeves and spent a minimum of three days on a cleaning spree, sometimes helped by his friends with the promise of a reward of cake or other baked goods. If there was one good thing that came from his mother, it had been learning how to cook well. It also had the added bonus of making a good impression with the ladies.
Women were always a complicated matter. He liked them no less than he liked men, but he had a harder time relating to them. Plus it was more complicated to find girls that were into the whole no-string-attached thing, and it was hard for him to fully commit himself to someone else after Julie, regardless of gender. He just couldn't help but compare everyone else to her, knowing no one would ever even come close to meeting his expectations. It wasn't that they weren't good enough for him, it was just that she had been on a whole other level.
He truly believed she was his soulmate, in a way. They still talked to each other frequently, and were good friends. It was odd to think she was going to become someone else's wife, but he wasn't really jealous or angry about it. She seemed really happy with him. Still, sometimes he still felt bitter at the thought that he couldn't have been that one, even if he no longer felt the same way as before. He felt like he had missed the chance of his lifetime, and he probably would never find someone else he could have loved as much as he had loved her, or at least not someone that could have so perfectly understood him and be understood by him in the same way.
He didn't particularly feel the urge to get into another relationship anytime soon, anyway, but it would have been nice to have something beyond just sex or superficial romance, and to not have to explain himself over and over again. Being open with his feelings got tiring when it only ended up in him getting hurt or inadvertently hurting someone else because their quirks and personality just ended up clashing and driving each other away.
It wasn't even particularly his or their fault, it just was how things were. He couldn't stop himself from being so paranoid and closed off and bad at expressing his feelings, he could only work his way around it, and over time it just seemed to become too much to deal with for the other person. Likewise, he couldn't expect someone else to suddenly stop needing his attention and validation more often than he was able to give, nor to cease being jealous when he still was talking to his ex on a daily basis, or to be too insistent and assertive with the result of pushing him back into his shell.
Maybe one day he would feel differently about it, who knew. For now he felt lucky enough to have his friends, taking life one step at a time, both in regards of relationships and physical transition. He still hadn't heard back from his insurance, for starters, and he wasn't yet sure of which surgeon to go to. He'd postponed trying to request a consult until after he was sure he would be covered, but it was starting to take its toll on his mental stability. He knew he wouldn't be able to go on like this for years.
He felt so tired and old already, as if he was an 80-year-old man in a 26-year-old body. He didn't even look much older than 20, even. At least he was well past the point where he'd get carded for drinks and smokes.
“Look at that, Jack"
One of his friends made a small nod towards the other side of the room so he turned his head in that direction, instantly furrowing his eyebrows.
“Who let that kid here?”, he growled.
He couldn't be older than 16. What the hell was the bouncer thinking?
“He's been eyeing you for a while”, commented Russ with a small chuckle.
As if that had been his cue, Jack saw him get up and start walking towards them, stopping right in front of him.
“Hi”, he said with a wide smile. “Name's Steve. And yours?”.
He mentally sighed.
“Hi, I'm Johnny”.
“I'm Stella, nice to meet you Steve”.
They all chatted for a while after the first round of introductions and pleasantries, his friends exchanging amused glances from time to time much to his annoyance. At some point he left them to go for a smoke, and the new guy eagerly followed him outside.
Of all the people here, why me?
The kid was cute enough, probably would have been quite the looker in ten years time. Too bad he wasn't a cradlerobber.
“Is it your first time here?”, he asked him, lighting up a cigarette before offering him one. He had never seen him around before. Not like he always came there, but he was pretty sure he would have noticed him if he'd seen him before.
“Yeah”, replied Steve, taking the cigarette and waiting for him to pass up the lighter. “Is it that obvious?”
“...it kind of is”.
Jack shrugged. He never had been good at being tactful.
“So are you just here with friends or, like, are you looking for someone?”, the other asked after a while, leaning in closer.
Jack deliberated on his response for a bit.
“Sorry, but you're not really my type”, he said, taking another drag from his cigarette and staring firmly into his eyes. “And you shouldn't be here in the first place. You know that, right?”
The other winced, his face crumpling as he tossed his cigarette on the concrete.
“...I'm going inside”.
Yeah, you do that.
Maybe he shouldn't have said that. It was none of his business anyway. Still, he couldn't help but worry for him. It wasn't just his age, the thing was it was as clear as day that he was new to that whole gig. He was bound to get himself in trouble.
He tried to push those thoughts out of his head as he went back to find the others again, enjoying the rest of his evening with them. He didn't even feel much like cruising, he just was glad to be able to hang out with the whole gang. Maybe they could just go and hunt for the nearest McDonald's later, when they'd all be too exhausted and drunk to keep on partying, or when the place closed – whichever came first.
He was at his third glass of Cuba Libre when he saw him again.
Steve was standing not too far from the bar, resting against the wall as if he was trying to shrink and disappear inside it, while a much taller and older guy kept chatting him up and moving in closer and closer, clearly either too drunk or too cocky to be aware of the fact that he was invading his personal bubble and creeping him up.
Jack stiffened, ignoring Russ's attempts to get him to move back to the dancefloor with the rest of them. He downed the rest of his drink in seconds, leaving the plastic glass on the counter before marching towards the kid and his pursuer.
“Hey Jeff”, he said, slapping the man's shoulder in a seemingly friendly gesture. “How's the wife?”.
The other guy jumped in surprise before glaring at him.
“Piss off. I'm busy”.
“How old is your kid yet? He's already going to high school, isn't he?”, he continued, holding back a grin as he saw the blood drain from Jeff's face all at once. “Probably about the same year as him, huh?”.
The man didn't say another word, instead he just shoved him aside so suddenly he nearly faceplanted on the floor, catching his balance at the last second.
He looked back at Steve, who seemed to be torn between wanting to thank him and wanting to tell him to piss off. Unsurprising, given their previous conversation.
“Sorry about earlier. I don't always think before I talk”, Jack said with what he hoped was a friendly smile. “How about we continue that conversation somewhere quieter?”.
He could almost hear the cogs turning inside the kid's head, probably debating on whether he was too prideful to give another chance to someone who had rebuffed him without the slightest hint of grace. At least he didn't completely lose interest on him, which would have completely thwarted his plans.
“What about your friends?”
“I'll text them later”. He shrugged. They were used to him disappearing on them halfway through the evening by then, and it wasn't like they never did the same. “So? What do you say?”
Steve still took some time to consider it, but finally he seemed to have come to his final decision.
“Alright. Do you drive?”
“Not after the third drink. We'll get a cab”.
Steve did not waste any time as soon as they were alone – well except for the driver on the front.
His hand moved on Jack's thigh, and the man gave him a look before placing his on top of it, gently moving it back to the seat as he held it.
“Where do you live?”
“I thought we'd be going to your place...”
“I'll drop you off at home. Do your parents even know you were out drinking?”.
Steve jerked his hand away from his grasp, scooting away from him with an angry look on his face.
“You fucker... mind your own damn business!”, he snapped, his voice rising both in pitch and volume. The kid blushed a bit as he noticed, trying to calm himself before growling in a much lower tone: “And for the record I'm 23”.
Jack scoffed. “Yeah right, and I'm a virgin”.
“Not with how far your head is stuck up your ass, you fucking prick”, Steve growled again, crossing his arms and looking out of the window.
“Fine, let's see your ID then”, he replied without losing his patience. He knew he had hit home from how the other tensed up at his words. “Do you even have one on you? I'm surprised they even let you past the...”
“Shut the fuck up!”, the other yelled, shoving him aside before fishing out his wallet from his own back pocket, furiously clawing out a small plastic card which he tossed in his face. “There! There's my ID! Are you fucking happy now?”.
Jack couldn't hold back his grin as he picked it up, knowing his suspicions would be confirmed. It was probably fake anyway, and...
His eyebrows furrowed as he glanced on the picture and name, then at the date of birth, then back at the picture.
“But that isn't y...”.
He froze up.
“Now bring me the fuck home and then fuck off out of my life”, Steve snapped at him again, his voice shaking and his face red, his eyes welling up with tears that he was desperately trying to hold back.
Jack swallowed hard.
Good job idiot.
Of all the fucking people in the world to jump to assumptions, he really should have known better.
Damn though, this guy passes far better I ever did.
He was kind of jealous, which was really stupid given how that wasn't even remotely a problem for him anymore. Besides, that should have been the last thing on his mind at the moment.
“I'm sorry”, he said, handing the card back to him. Steve snatched it from his hands without a word and put it away again, still refusing to look at him.
“You're right. I shouldn't have butted in. But at least I did save you from Jeff earlier, so can we call it even?”, he proposed in a hopeful tone. “Let's put this whole mess behind us and get to my place. Just to talk. You don't really have to tell me anything you don't want, I promise I won't be an ass about it. Well, I'll try to. I'm not the best at this sort of thing. But I'd really like to make up for it”.
Still no answer. He sighed, biting his lip as he tried to think of a way to mend things between them.
“Next time, all drinks will be on me”, he promised. “Plus I can tell you which bartenders to avoid if you don't want them tasting like dish soap. And I can tell you about the other clubs around here, since you are new. Hav-”
“Shut up already, we're not even at your house yet and I'm already tired of your yapping”, Steve cut him off, still looking upset. At least now he was no longer glaring daggers at him.
“...does that mean that you'll come?”.
“If you promise not to say another word until we get there... I'll think about it”.
Jack smiled brightly. Maybe the evening wasn't completely ruined after all. Who knew, he might even have a new friend soon.
“Then it's a deal”, he agreed, before suddenly realizing he had forgotten one small but very crucial detail Even if they weren't going to do anything, he figured he kind of owed it to him at that point. “Ah, just one last thing...”
Steve rolled his eyes at him.“What?”
“Before we get there... there is something you should know about me”.